Pinoys, Christmastime is fast approaching! Apart from the holiday-themed activities, family celebrations, and year-end traditions, Christmas festivals are very much a part of this yuletide season. Are you looking forward to joining in some of the country’s most exciting festivities? Here, we list some of the best annual Christmas festivals in the Philippines and where you can find them!
Also read: Christmas in Manila: 8 Places and Activities to Experience the Holiday Spirit
Most anticipated Christmas festivals in the Philippines
1. UP Lantern Parade
The Lantern Parade of the University of the Philippines kicks off the holiday season with its colourful, handcrafted floats and lanterns, along with live music and performances. This annual university tradition dates back to the 1920s, taking inspiration from the Spanish custom Misa de Gallo. Since then, it has grown into one of the most popular and much-awaited Christmas festivals in the Philippines.
2. UST Paskuhan
Another highly anticipated festival is the University of Santo Tomas’ annual Paskuhan! This month-long fete begins with a Eucharistic celebration, a Christmas concert, a lighting ceremony, and a university-wide banquet (Agape). On Paskuhan day itself, the university opens its gates to welcome visitors to a night of celebration with its lineup of live performances and a grand fireworks display.
3. San Fernando Giant Lantern Festival
The Giant Lantern Festival is quite literally the biggest and brightest Christmas festival in the city of San Fernando, Pampanga. Held in mid-December, this annual festival features a competition of gigantic and extravagant parol lanterns handcrafted by different barangays. Given its nationwide popularity, San Fernando City has been lauded as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines!
4. Niños Inocentes
Not many people are aware of the Niños Inocentes or Feast of the Holy Innocents, more so what it commemorates. This feast is not exactly a grand celebration, it is a remembrance of the sacrifice of innocent male infants by order of King Herod during the time of Jesus. Ironically, Pinoys have turned this event into an extension of yuletide joy to spread happiness during the Season. Every 28th of December, everyone automatically becomes a target for pranks or practical jokes! So, who are you pranking this year?
5. Saint Louis University Lantern Parade (SLU Lantern Parade)
If you’re heading up to Baguio City for the holidays, plan your trip just in time for the Saint Louis University Lantern Parade! From its humble beginnings in 2008, this Christmas festival has continuously attracted more spectators each year. Here, locals and tourists gather to witness colourful floats, brightly lit lanterns, and grand street dances from Session Road to Burnham Park. What’s not to love about this festive university tradition?
6. Maytinis Festival
Maytinis Festival is an original Caviteño tradition celebrated every Christmas Eve. It features a town-wide panunuluyan, a dramatic reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. Here, actors dressed up as the Holy Family and other significant characters in the Bible parade the streets of Kawit, Cavite. A true and classic representation of the Christmas spirit, Maytinis Festival is not one to be missed!
7. Bailes de Luces Festival
The Bailes de Luces Festival is a thanksgiving tradition celebrated by the townspeople of La Castellana in Negros Occidental. The festival makes use of props decked out in LED lights and vibrant costumes, which also expresses hope for a prosperous new year. For locals, this festival marks the end of the Christmas season. What a fantastic and meaningful way to cap off the year, don’t you think?
8. Kamundagan Festival
The Kamundagan Festival is a month-long event held in Naga City (the heart of the Bicol Region) which celebrates the Advent Season. It comprises cultural events like street dance competitions (kiti-kiti), Biblical dramatisations (pastoras), and the Bikol Song Festival. Aside from its twinkling displays and festivities, Nagueños also use this time of the year to promote its local culture and traditions.
9. Feast of the Three Kings
The Feast of the Three Kings or Araw ng Tatlong Hari officially caps the long Christmas season in the country! It is celebrated nationwide every first Sunday of January. In remembrance of the three wise men who visited the Child Jesus, Filipino Catholics see this as a time of feasting and gift-giving. A little fun fact: Feast of the Three Kings is also sometimes referred to as “Little Christmas,” as it is a traditional end to the Season.
Come January, the townfolks of the Province of Aklan carry out its annual Ati-Atihan Festival in honour of Santo Niño. This week-long celebration is known for its grand dance parades, marching bands, and eye-catching costumes inspired by the aboriginal natives that once settled in Aklan. Being one of the most extravagant festivals in the Philippines, it has earned itself the nickname Mother of All Philippine Festivals!
That’s about everything for this list of Christmas festivals in the Philippines to anticipate every year! May these exciting festivities get you into the holiday spirit and set you and your family up for a fun-filled Christmas. Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat!